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Plenty of similarities in Roncalli-SFC matchup

Aberdeen Roncalli girls basketball coach Derek Larson, center, calls out a play from the bench during last Thursday night’s SoDak 16 game against Redfield in Ipswich. The Cavaliers face Sioux Falls Christian at 2 p.m. Thursday in the State A tourney in Watertown. Photo by John Davis taken 3/4/2021

While there were upsets along the way, a couple of powerhouses will be present when the Class A State Girls’ Basketball Tournament gets underway Thursday at the Watertown Civic Arena.

Top-seeded and perennial power St. Thomas More is there as well as Winner. There are other teams who also figure to be in the mix for a possible state title.

“St. Thomas More and their history, they’re probably the favorite only losing one game so far this year,” said Aberdeen Roncalli coach Derek Larson. “I think there’s 4-5 teams that can all contend for titles. It’s kind of who’s hot at the right time and who puts the ball in the basket at the right moment.”

St. Thomas More faces McCook Central-Montrose in the opening round, followed by Roncalli and Sioux Falls Christian. Winner meets Dakota Valley and Hamlin takes on Belle Fourche.

This year marks the fourth straight season Roncalli has qualified for the state tournament. The Cavaliers are the fourth seed and will face one of the state’s premier players in their matchup with SFC.

“Everyone is probably looking at Lexi Unruh averaging 24 points a game. Arguably the best player in the state this year as a senior. We’re paying a lot of attention to her,” Larson said. “There’s a reason she’s going to Creighton next year. Just a solid basketball player. She can kind of go inside and out. She’s probably more athletic than most of the guards that we see. At 6-foot, she’s just kind of a touch matchup for teams and probably will be for us, also.”

Otherwise, there are some interestingly similarities between the two teams. For starters, each has as 6-foot-2 center and both squads like to play the same style.

“They’re long and lanky and pretty athletic, and really like to get out in transition,” Larson said. “I think we have a lot of similarities between us and Sioux Falls Christian.”

Roncalli has relied on its defense all season. While that will continue to be a key, Larson said his players also need to be able to make shots.

“We have to really make sure we defend. That’s something we try to hang our hat on a little bit,” Larson said. “It kind of comes down to making open shots. We’ve had plenty of open shots this year. Sometimes they’ve fallen and sometimes they haven’t.”

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